Tiger Fishing Tactics
African tiger fish (hydracynus vittattus)
This species is one of the most sought after in fresh water, due to its ferocious nature. The Tiger fish is a predator fish some note, even feeding on its own kind up to 33% of its own body weight! This makes catching the tiger something of a treat, from Tanzania through to the Zambezi systems this fish is hard to beat pound for pound.
Also a very attractive fish its colors can be seen below, and of course its vicious looking rows of teeth, care must always be taken when handling these fish once caught as they can inflict serious damage to one hands and feet if not handled correctly, even take off fingers! The record tiger fish in Zimbabwe is 16.100 kg.
There are many different methods of trying to catch these predators along the various river systems which they inhabit, from Fly fishing to live bait drifting and even trolling with lures, we will discuss these tactics later.
Tiger fishing equipment is quite diverse, it totally depends on where you are fishing, what size tiger you expect to be catching, the method in which you are trying to catch them and whether you are in a competition or not. The basic equipment you will need to achieve some degree of success is to carry a rod for each method with its own rig. So for example, if you will be spinning then you need a fast action rod, quite hard, and short. The line you use for this type of fishing will need to be strong as the hit taken will be a lot stronger than the actual size of the fish due to the nature of the method, nothing less than 8 kg breaking strain, even that is quite light, so over cater if you are not sure.
You will need a variety of lures, also depending on where you are fishing and method but in general for trolling you will be looking at rapalas, spinners, and spoons all various colors, red heads, greens, gold, blacks, blues, fire tigers and many others. Spinning you can alternate between the different colors as well, silver, gold, red, ice, yellow and various combinations. Spoons will either be silver or copper colored.
The sizes of hooks is very important when deciding on your method, even some lures need to have their hooks changed from the ones they have been sold with. For any form of bait fishing you need at least size 4/0, and getting bigger as you change the style of bait, either fillets of smaller tiger fish, or tilapia, or whether you will be using Kapenta (Tanganyika Sardine). Obviously with the extreme razor like teeth you will need to rig every lure, or hook you are using to a trace wire, with swivels in order to avoid twisting your line.
We touched on these briefly in our previous paragraphs about the equipment used to catch tiger fish. We will look at some basic techniques which are employed by most avid fishermen in Zimbabwe.
The spinning technique is used by simply attaching a metal lure with some bright color to your trace at the end of your line (12kg) and casting it towards structure (much the same way as you would with bass fishing). This method is used in Kariba when amongst tree lines, along weed banks or rocky shorelines, as well above shallow sand bars, small strips of bait can be put on the large single hook on your spinner as an option. In the Upper Zambezi (above Vic Falls) the spinning is used in relatively faster water and aimed towards rocks breaking the surface, in channels, and areas where the topography of the bottom of the river creates ‘holes’. The tiger fish above Vic Falls are more inclined to favour rapalas than the spinners used in the Lake.
Baiting is a common fishing technique with there being so many different bait fish to utilize. The Lower Zambezi is one area where live baits yield some of the best results. The Lake is a place where the tiger fish are lucky to have a stable diet of Kapenta (Tanganyika sardine) so therefore this is a very successful bait to use, fishing like this requires a medium action rod, with light line not more than 8kg breaking strain, a wire trace and a size 4/0 hook at least, fresh Kapenta and possible a running sinker depending on your location (fast water, depth, under water topography, season etc). Fillets from smaller Tiger fish are often used and work well as they are tough and do not fall off the hook in fast water, all Tilapia species are good fillets, Chessa (Distichodus schenga), Nkupe (Distichodus mossambicus), the following are good used as live baits, Silver catfish (Schilbe intermedius), Brown squeaker (Synodontis andersonii), and any Tilapia species up to 10cm in length.
Trolling is a method used to catch various species all over the world whether you are fishing fresh water or in the oceans, it is used on the Zambezi river system to catch large Tiger fish. Again various lures are used in different places, mainly large rapalas are used in various colors, green, gold, orange, yellow, black, red heads, blue, and silver, and all possible combinations of those colors are worth a try. Simply put you troll with heavy equipment to ensure that you hit the fish as hard as it hits you, as the tiger has a very hard mouth it makes it be=very tough to set the hooks, which is why you will probably lose 7 out of every 10 tiger you get a bite from, so therefore, strong trolling rod, strong line not less than 20 kg, and you follow troll lines sucha s channels or banks, or ridges of rocks underwater.
The Zambezi River system is extensive, from the source of the river in Northern Zambia stretching through and along the borders of 5 different countries, Zambia, Angola, North Eastern Namibia, entire Northern border of Zimbabwe and finally into Mozambique where it runs all the way to the Indian Ocean, covering a distance of some 2300km. You are literally spoilt for choice, the river is broken up into 3 sections, the Upper Zambezi (the river above Victoria Falls), the Middle Zambezi (Victoria Falls downstream to Lake Kariba wall) and the Lower Zambezi (the river below Kariba wall). There are plenty of fishing camps in all of these areas, to view more info click here…
Fishing tends to one of those sports where you never know what’s going to happen, but over the many years trends have been observed by the many fisherman that live in these areas and thanks to them planning a trip that will give the best possible opportunity to catch these great fighters is a little bit easier than it used to be. The change of weather patterns is slightly affecting the times of the year when the fish are on the bite, but generally from September through to February is the best tiger season on Lake Kariba. You can have relative success throughout the year. Above Victoria Falls the tiger spawn at the end of December and makes it very difficult to catch much, due to the heavy rain and dirty water, once the water clears up at the end of February it starts to come right again. Same applies to the Lower Zambezi.
Guided fishing trips
Kangamani Tours offers fishing trips which are 10 day self drive trips, starting on the Zambezi River below the Victoria Falls and boating all the way to Kariba town and back again, this trip is designed to bring out the adventurer in every fishermen. We can tailor trips as well to suit needs of the clients, please click here to read more about these trips.
We can also help you with other fishing trips along the Zambezi, such as the Upper Zambezi, in Zambia, and in Zimbabwe. Please contact us for any further information.
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